Some time ago, I found out that marigold petals are the poor man's alternative to saffron. I can make a rich broth to cook rice in, but that beautiful orangy color is hard to come by with normal spices. Since I grow marigolds in my garden and at this time of the year, there are hundreds of blooms, I decided to collect some. Sure I can go out a pick a few now for tonight's dinner, but in the middle of winter my garden will be empty. Solution? Dry some now to add to my stash of dried herbs.
Pick your blooms in the morning after the sun has had a chance to dry off the dew. Of course, you can only use flowers that are grown without any insecticides. I just use my fingers and give them a slight twist. In just a few minutes you will have a good basketful of gorgeous brightly colored flowers.
Now the seed part of the flower is bitter and needs to be removed. I found that using a pair of scissors made the job easy to separate the petals from the seeds.
Sort the petals from the seeds by placing them in different containers. Keep the petals in a clean container as you don't want to contaminate them.
By the time you are done with the basket, you will have a nice fluffy pile of marigold petals and a pile of seed pods. I gave the seeds to our chickens but you could also add them to your compost pile.
To dry the petals, you need to place them on a tray lined with a paper towel to help absorb the moisture. Don't make the layer too thick or you will run the risk of mold developing between the petals.
Place the tray in a warm oven of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Every couple of hours, give them a little stir with your fingers to make sure the heat is circulating between the petals.
When they have shrunk considerably in volume and feel dry to the touch, turn off the oven and let them cool down to room temperature.
Pour them into a dry sealable container and store in a cool and dark cupboard. Now you are ready to experiment with using marigold flowers in your cooking.
They look beautiful in a fried rice dish and add a rich color to soup broths.
Why not use marigolds? They are full of carotenoids, antioxidants and so easy to grow and have a pleasant almost citrusy flavor.